Wrong (note the picture above, taken from “The Rope to Hang Them,” WSJ 1.2.14).
Net Neutrality comprises an astounding list of government-imposed terribles – stuff liberty-lovers must always remain watchful of and work to defeat. So, if you care about free speech, private property, free markets, or the rule of law, then Net Neutrality, which undermines all of this, should concern you. Greatly.
More specifically, Net Neutrality –
- Limits Speech – The “law” prevents ISPs from communicating over their facilities as they want. It imposes restrictions on the types of communications partners ISPs can work with, oblivious to the vibrantly competitive marketplace for communications products and Internet access. Further, it demands that ISPs carry the speech of others even if they don’t want it. The First Amendment generally prevents the government from imposing speech requirements on private actors, subject only to exceptional circumstances. Just because the FCC “says so” – based on nothing more than Chicken Little thinking to “protect” the Internet’s so-call “openness” – does not qualify as an exceptional reason. Each ISP, not the government, should determine what type of speaker it is, or wants to be. The marketplace can take it from there. Where markets work and consumers have numerous choices to get online, which they do, the government has no legitimate reason to limit ISP speech.
- Poaches Private Property – Net Neutrality stops ISPs from using their property as only they may determine. It demands that edge providers like Google and Netflix get unfettered access to ISP facilities to “speak” to consumers without paying their fair share. Moreover, ISPs can’t kick them off, granting third-parties perpetual easements on the ISPs private property. The Fifth Amendment instructs that if government takes private property for a public purpose, its must compensate property owners accordingly. That compensation clearly isn’t happening with the rule. Moreover, where property can easily be poached or forced into public servitude, property holders (ISPs) will be reluctant to make sustained investment decisions and innovations in that property. Because the Internet ecosystem is interdependent – ISPs and the edge – suffer as a result.
- Willfully Ignores the Marketplace – The Internet’s success and growth came about mainly from deregulation of our communications networks, not more FDR-era regulation. Consequently, vibrant, silo-busting competition proliferated. Ironically, as the market and technology shattered the industry’s agency-created silos, the FCC believed it remained immune to similar pressures. In its eyes, the Commission stands above the “fatally flawed” market, with the agency “knowing” that somewhere down the road, market participants will harm consumers. Maybe not today. Maybe not in a decade. But they will, oh yes. And so, to “protect” the Internet from itself and its “irrational” market-driven guidance (the evil ISPs, that is), the FCC’s imposed an ecosystem-sized, regulatory condom to “more perfectly” guide the growth of the medium. “Smarter” than the spontaneous marketplace, Net Neutrality regulation is a self-interested fabrication designed to engorge an agency at a pivotal time when its mission has come to a close due to marketplace dynamics and the agency’s inability to move beyond the smallness of 1930’s era rules, which still anachronistically control its progressive-leaning commissioners.
- Creates “Law” without Congress’ Permission – Congress makes the laws and policy; agencies follow and implement it. Net Neutrality turns this on its head, however, with the FCC creating “law” and policy on its own. Congress said information services (a.k.a. the Internet) aren’t like phone services. Yet, that’s how Net Neutrality treats them. An agency – a creature of Congress – that acts above the will of the People? Have the governed consented to that? I don’t think so. Nether does the Constitution. Net Neutrality is not the rule of law, but rather the rule of arbitrary rulers who see real law as a mere inconvenience to its power grab.
Look, the market isn’t broken. Consumers aren’t being harmed. Competition among different providers and ways of accessing the Internet abounds. Edge, service, application and device providers only grow. Adding to this all, the evolution of technology, industry best practices, consumer education and present laws that deal with actual consumer harm further ensure that where there’s a problem it can be fixed, keeping liberty-perverting, government interference to an absolute minimum.
If the FCC thinks Net Neutrality is so necessary – even in light of the Internet’s healthy development – it should ask Congress for permission to “make it better.”
But, it can’t act on its own.
When an agency arbitrarily comes for your speech, for your property, for the marketplace, and for the powers only Congress has (which have been loaned to it from its citizens), that should make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
Sadly, the FCC isn’t alone in its shenanigans. Hundreds of other agencies do the same, working their slow-drip process to erode our liberties, one willy-nilly rule at a time.
This year, Uncle Sam issued over 79,000 pages of rules in the Federal Register, the third highest ever.
That’s a lot of willy-nilly. 79,000 pages too much.